Mon-Thu, noon-11:30pm; Fri-Sat, noon-midnight; Sun, noon-10:30pm
6 at Astor Pl.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
It's strange to find the sort of authentic Sichuan restaurant that usually requires trekking to Queens (or at least the right block of midtown) in the student-friendly East Village. Yet here's Hot Kitchen, bright and clean, with cordial-enough (if rather slow) service, jammed with Chinese families digging into communal chile-laced dishes that make liberal use of tingly Sichuan peppercorn. Start with preserved meat dumplings, which are juicy and pack a more nuanced meaty flavor than the usual steamed dumpling. Hot and sour sweet potato noodles are a must-order: glassy vermicelli in a mouth-numbing, deeply savory broth that seems to brim with curative properties. While chicken wings won't be the best you've ever tasted, they're worth trying for the elaborate (Hunan-leaning) bed of potatoes, mushrooms, lotus, and chopped chiles they're arrayed on, like some sort of spice fiend's Thanksgiving redux. Dry-fried and crunchy Mei Shan beef, with its sweet-and-spicy notes, should appeal to American-Chinese aficionados and hard-core regional-cuisine nerds alike. Skip the village spicy chicken, which, if ordered boneless, arrives chopped and flavorless on a bed of bell peppers. Prices are a bit higher than what you find in Flushing, but the shorter subway trip makes up for it.